Sunday, 6 May 2018

Kitchissippi Times - Infill Housing

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know how much infill housing drives me crazy. Here's an article I had in our community newspaper, The Kitchissippi Times, last October.

Dear Editor,

I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading the profile of Anne Hamilton who lives in a house on Princeton. (“Who Lives Here: The house with the white picket fence,” September 28 edition of KT.) In the piece, her home is described as “the little blue and white wooden house.” What a refreshing article! Here is a woman who declares, “I was looking for a home, not an investment.” This is, of course, in stark contrast to the vultures who roam our neighbourhoods now, in search of a property where they can tear down a perfectly fine home so they can build an unsightly double and make an enormous profit. I am also extremely tired of reading pieces in other papers where Homes articles extoll the features of gigantic new houses with master bedrooms as big as bowling alleys. No one needs that much space. Ms. Hamilton reminds us of the basics – that a house is a home. She has a “generous yard” which she can enjoy, she is in a good location so she can walk to retail shops. She is perfectly happy with a modest sized home.

“Unfortunately, even small homes are now priced way too high for many folks,”
writes Mary Ellen Kot. Photo by Andrea Tomkins
“Unfortunately, even small homes are now priced way too high for many folks,” 
writes Mary Ellen Kot. Photo by Andrea Tomkins

The sad thing about this story is that she bought this place in 1991, when small houses were affordable.
Unfortunately, even small homes are now priced way too high for many folks. It’s the lot location that drives the price, not the house itself. And so we are losing most of our small homes; houses where many other residents would be as happy as Ms. Hamilton is now, and has been for many years.
Mary Ellen Kot,Wellington Village


May 9, 2018

The things is, now it's happening right across the street from us. In this case, I am resigned to the fact that this small house will come down. It's a tired old place which has had very little maintenance over the  years. It would take a tremendous amount of work and money to renovate it, to modern standards. 

However, I  remain concerned about what will be built in its place. I recently checked with our local councillor, to see how far Ottawa's new infill guidelines go. Are they designed to really protect the character of existing neighbourhoods? There are restrictions about the placement of front doors, parking spaces and garages. These have to match the houses on the block. By-laws dictate the height and front yard setbacks etc. As for building materials though -  anything goes. If you want to build a glass and corrugated steel box, in the middle of a block with brick homes with peaked roofs, that's not a problem. So while we await the bulldozers, we're very curious as to what we will be staring at from our front verandah.

On a sadder note, we recently heard that another small house on our block will go up for sale in the next week. Unlike the one across the street from us, this one is very attractive and well maintained. It's lovely. So will one person, or maybe a couple, decide it's their dream home and buy it? Or will it be a developer, who will knock it down and build for profit? 

What's really strange about all this, is that I'm getting used to it. I don't like what's happening but I'm resigned to the fact that our neighbourhoods are being transformed in this current culture of greed. 

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